Archive for 'January 2011'

    Defense primes gives suppliers marching orders to lobby Congress to preserve aerospace and defense jobs

    January 26, 2011 8:55 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    SAN FRANCISCO -- Interesting tidbit overheard yesterday at the SPIE Photonics West conference in San Francisco. It seems one of the nation's prime defense contractors, in a recent Webcast for its suppliers, is strongly urging its military subcontractors to urge their senators and congressional representatives to preserve current levels of defense spending in the interest of creating and preserving jobs.

    Job creation is not a bad message, certainly, yet does this revelation, if true, indicate that defense primes are enlisting their suppliers to lobby their senators and congressmen on the prime contractors' behalf? If so, the driving message certainly is the issue of jobs, which promises to be a cornerstone of the upcoming 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

    Conventional wisdom says the U.S. Department of Defense budget is on its way down. Yet could the notion of sustained defense spending in federal fiscal year 2012 and beyond become a political device for trumpeting job creation and preservation? I think it just could.

    For its political opponents, the defense budget is an icon of wasteful spending, in terms of dollars and human lives. Yet with defense primes and their suppliers beating the drum for jobs, many of the negative connotations of military spending just might be turned around.

    After all, there are defense suppliers in virtually every state and congressional district. If every congressman and senator is lobbied hard and heavy for sustaining defense spending in the interest of creating and preserving jobs, the DOD budget in 2012 might be turned into a political winner.

    Let's watch for the DOD's 2012 budget request coming up soon to see if act-one of this strategy plays out. Federal fiscal year 2012 begins next October 1.

    The Army likes contractors who are on time and on budget

    January 25, 2011 4:56 PM by John McHale

    Posted by John McHale
    The headline for this blog may state the obvious, but unfortunately defense prime contractors are not always able to meet those lofty goals -- on time and on budget. Note the cancellations of programs such as Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) -- cancelled in 2008 for what the Army said were cost overruns and other issues.

    However, there are some contractors who do hit their targets, and the Army is not shy about issuing their praise for these efforts such as the Security & Support Mission Equipment Package (MEP) modification to the UH-72A Lakota, led by EADS North America in Arlington, Va. This MEP included new avionics systems and other equipment.

    "EADS North America has never missed a delivery to the Army on this program," Lt. Col. Dave Bristol, product manager for Lakota helicopters at Redstone Arsenal told me during an interview I was doing on helicopter avionics upgrades . "They've done a great job of being on time if not early, which is unheard of in a program."

    For more on the Lakota upgrade read "Army looks to helicopter avionics upgrades and technology insertion in the absence of new rotorcraft programs ."

    In addition to EADS North America Bristol also noted the "hard work" of the National Guard Bureau, Project Executive Office Aviation, American Eurocopter, and other suppliers.

    Bristol's enthusiasm for EADS North America made me think back to 2008, when I was at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting in Washington. It was right around when the ARH was cancelled and you could sense the frustration and disappointment of Army Aviation officials over the program's failures.

    That's why it was nice to hear Bristol's comments. I hope it's a recurring trend. The country could use a new helicopter platform -- even though it will take ten years at least from start to finish.

    The Lakota's success certainly bodes well for EADS North America too.

    Managing thermals in Army helicopter cockpits

    January 24, 2011 4:36 PM by John McHale

    Posted by John McHale
    Managing thermals in avionics is a big challenge in the OH-58F Kiowa Warrior upgrade, says Lt. Col. Scott Rauer, product manager, Kiowa Warrior Program Executive Office at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. Unlike the Apache helicopter, which has a dedicated cooling system, "my two main boxes are clustered together where they are open to ambient air and operating in hot environments."

    Rauer made his comments to me during interviews for an article I was writing on helicopter avionics. For more on that interview read " Army looks to helicopter avionics upgrades and technology insertion in the absence of new rotorcraft programs ."

    "The new smaller boxes are better at thermal management and we've also noticed a trend toward more thermally efficient electronics at the board and chip level," Rauer says.

    It can take quite a bit of problem solving as these aircraft are operatign in very hot environments with limited space in the cockpit, Rauer says. In one case "we are designing a box where the exhaust from one box blows to the intake of another box -- to help keep it cool. It's delicate jigsaw puzzle."

    Engineers at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, say creative thinking is necessary as the new processors are generating so much more heat. For one program Rockwell Collins helped manage the thermals on a display system by taking advantage of light emitting diode (LED) power efficiencies for the backlighting, which helped reduce the overall temperature of the system, says Dan Toy, principal marketing manager in mobility and rotary wing business area at Rockwell Collins.

    Investing in filters, compensators, and unique optics can help minimize the power draw from a lighting source, Toy adds. "We are constantly making sure we have the appropriate solution."

    Even though processors are getting power hungry you can do a lot more in single processor than ever before, says Steve Edwards, chief technology officer for Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va. "If we can cool a module, you may have less power at the platform level."

    Some vendors will allow users to change clock speeds to reduce power on Intel chips, Edwards continues. If the application does not need to do full-up processing, the clock speed adjustment will enable them to throttle back and reduce power voltage on the chip, he adds.

    Curtiss-Wright Controls Electronic Systems in Littleton, Mass., has a new technology line called CoolWall that is available in a 3U form factor and ideal for applications such as helicopter avionics or unmanned aerial vehicles, Edwards says. This technology is based on a proprietary mixture of metal composite materials, and provides the ability to thermally manage high-power payloads in multiprocessing and digital signal processing (DSP) applications.

    It came from Curtiss-Wright's acquisition of rugged enclosure and chassis designer Hybricon, he adds.

    Army still exploring synthetic vision technology

    January 21, 2011 1:52 PM by John Mchale

    Posted by John McHale
    During interviews for a story I was writing on Army helicopter avionics for our February issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics the topic of synthetic vision came up while speaking with Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix. Both companies are designing synthetic vision systems for commercial aviation.

    I didn't use the synthetic vision part in the feature as it is not a requirement for any current Army rotorcraft avionics upgrades , but the Army is exploring the technology according to Rockwell Collins and Honeywell.

    For more on Army helicopter avionics upgrades read "Army looks to helicopter avionics upgrades and technology insertion in the absence of new rotorcraft programs ."

    "We are working on synthetic vision technology" with the Army and how that could be integrated into the Common Avionics Architecture System (CASS) program, says Boe Svatek, programs manager for advanced rotorcraft programs at Rockwell Collins,

    For more on the CAAS program read "Army uses open-systems standards for helicopter avionics ."

    Due to the current funding environment, it is hard for the Army to justify an upgrade to synthetic vision right now, he says.

    Rockwell Collins engineers are looking to enhance the image resolution for helicopter operations, Svatek says.

    "What's been done in synthetic vision to date has been for fixed wing aircraft," Svatek says. "We want to make it more effective for rotorcraft."

    Synthetic vision is still a little bit ahead of its time, he adds.

    Honeywell's synthetic vision technology was used in a DARPA program called Sandblaster with Sikorsky in stratford, Conn., as the prime contractor, says Lonny Rakes, director of business development for U.S. Army programs at Honeywell. The system took sensor information from a millimeter wave sensor from Sierra Nevada in Sparks, Nev., and integrated it with a synthetic terrain view, he adds.

    The sensor data blended with the synthetic vision enabled pilots to have a view outside the cockpit in degraded visual environments such as those caused by sand or dust, Rakes says.

    Sandblaster was completed successfully and Honeywell is involved in a follow-on contract to explore the problem further, Rakes says. He declined to comment on the specifics of the follow-on contract.

    Commandos attack, and pirates die; South Korean navy show the world how to do anti-piracy

    January 21, 2011 1:16 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    The Americans and the British lately have been looking into advanced technologies that may have applications in countering Somali pirates operating in and around the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. These technologies involve directed-energy weapons such as non-lethal lasers to distract and deter pirates, and high-power microwaves that could kill the engines on pirate boats.

    Yet while the British and Americans have been talking about new high-tech approaches to anti-piracy , the South Korean navy is showing everyone in the world how to do it -- board captured ships and kill every pirate in sight.

    Commandos from the South Korean navy stormed a ship earlier today that had been hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, killed at least eight of the pirates in cabin-to-cabin gunfights, captured five other pirates who wisely chose capture over death, and rescued all 21 hostages aboard the 11,500-ton chemical freighter.

    The commando force suffered no injuries. The ship's captain suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound during the operation. The South Korean force had a little help from a nearby U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, which also provided a helicopter to transfer the wounded Korean ship's captain.

    Those Korean sailors don't mess around, and that's the way it should be. "We will not tolerate any activities that threaten the safety and lives of our people," said South Korea President Lee Myung-Bak, who authorized the operation.

    That's not too difficult to understand -- unlike, perhaps, non-lethal lasers and high-power microwaves.

    Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is a loose cannon who needs to be secured in Pima County, Arizona

    January 11, 2011 10:27 AM by John Keller
    Posted by John Keller

    I'm wondering today just exactly what making broad, factless accusations of radio show talk hosts has to do with investigating the shooting Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. , that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six bystanders.

    Nothing, it seems, and that's the trouble with Clarence Dupnik, sheriff of Pima County, Ariz.

    Rather than sticking to his job of enforcing the laws in Pima County, as well as investigating and solving crimes committed there, Sheriff Dupnik has seen fit to accuse Radio host Rush Limbaugh of creating an atmosphere of violence in our nation that led to the shootings in Tucson Saturday.

    This is the same man who says he refuses to enforce Arizona's new immigration law because he thinks it's a bad law. Once again, is this what Sheriff Dupnik was elected to do?

    I think Sheriff Dupnik has done more than anyone else since this tragedy to inflame rhetoric ... not that there's anything wrong with inflaming rhetoric. Dupnik and everyone else has rights to free speech that give us the privilege of inflaming rhetoric.

    Still, Dupnik's exercising those rights at this moment in time does nothing to help investigate the crime, and to put the alleged shooter behind bars; it may even hinder law-enforcement efforts rated to this case. It's a question of judgement.

    Sheriff Dupnik is the definition of a loose cannon, and he needs to be secured to the deck of Pima County, Arizona. The sheriff boasts of his 50 years experience in law enforcement. Perhaps it's time he retired to make way for a new sheriff who will:

    1) show sensible judgement; and
    2) enforce the laws of Pima County.

    Projected cuts in military spending: DOD budget enters the land of make-believe

    January 7, 2011 11:09 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    I'm reading with interest an online story in The New York Times today about planned reductions in the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps by 47,000 personnel, despite U.S. involvement in several different overseas conflicts. Gee, that sounds pretty serious.

    Yet The Times story, entitled Pentagon Seeks Biggest Military Cuts Since Before 9/11 , waits until the sixth paragraph to point out these force reductions in the Army and Marines are not expected to begin until the year 2015.

    Yeah, 2015. Four years, two congressional elections, and one presidential election away. In this politically charged climate, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is predicting what's going to happen in the Pentagon four years in the future.

    That's kind of like predicting how the weather will be in four years, except a whole lot less accurately.

    So much is going to happen in the federal government between now and 1 Oct. 2014 -- the first day of federal fiscal year 2015 -- that no one ... NO ONE ... has any clue how the political landscape influencing defense spending will be by then.

    I've been covering the DOD budget closely now for nearly 20 years, and I can't predict with any accuracy whatsoever even how the annual DOD budget request -- typically submitted in February or March -- will differ from the actual congressional appropriations that come out the following fall. Six months is an eternity in this business -- except where procurement of big-ticket new military platforms is concerned. There's no way anyone can tell where we're going to be in four years time.

    I doubt that even Gates himself will be in the picture by 2015. I suspect by then he'll be happily retired from government service -- for good, if he's got any sense. Many of today's members of Congress will be gone by then, too. President Obama may not even be in the picture by then.

    So why, I ask, are we making predictions that are being splashed all over The New York Times that are nothing more than flights of fancy? Sure, I think Pentagon spending is heading down over the next several years, but how in the world can we predict personnel numbers and dollar amounts this far in advance?

    The truth is, we can't. It's a political stunt by the Obama Administration trying to show they're ready to get tough on defense spending. For those of us involved in the defense business, don't be too scared yet. There's a lot that will happen between now and then.

    Second-generation Intel Core processor announcement triggers an avalanche of new embedded computing products

    January 5, 2011 2:39 PM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    It was like an avalanche this afternoon in the embedded computing community, touched off by Intel's announcement of its 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. These new chips have processor graphics built in, which promises to offer a new dimension in size and capability for today's graphics-heavy aerospace and defense systems.

    What Intel is saying is the new Core processor family, which has popularly been known as "Sandy Bridge," will power more than 500 desktop and laptop PCs expected from major suppliers this year. Judging from the flood of announcements from embedded computing suppliers, however, the single-board computer industry is pouncing on this new technology, as well.

    Emerson Network Power , GE Intelligent Platforms , Mercury Computer Systems , Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing , Kontron , and Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) were first out the gate with new embedded computing products based on the second-generation Intel Core processors. Not only that, but LynuxWorks also is announcing software operating system support for the new chip. Many other announcements should be expected to follow.

    With the 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family's built-in graphics processing capability, companies like NVIDIA, which specialize in graphics processors, may have reason to worry over their market share in the aerospace and defense industry.

    Moreover, a CPU that combines the floating-point processing capability of the Intel Core i7 with graphics processing should open up a new frontier of integration for aerospace and defense applications in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). The potential to cram brawny image and other sensor-processing hardware on small platforms like unmanned aerial vehicles should get a lot of interest among major defense prime contractors and embedded computing suppliers.

    We'll get to detailing all the new embedded computing products based on the 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family over the next several days.

    The Intel Core i7 processor with its floating point capability was one of the biggest stories covered by Military & Aerospace Electronics in 2010. This year the second generation of this processor should have an equally big impact.

    If Michelle Obama is pregnant, what might that mean for the defense budget?

    January 3, 2011 10:46 AM by John Keller

    Posted by John Keller

    Okay, okay, so what if the rumors are correct that Michelle Obama is pregnant? I'm not saying it's true; I have no information on this whatsoever, but my question is, if Michelle Obama is indeed pregnant, what would that mean for the 2012 U.S. defense budget ?

    A new baby on the way in any family is a blessing, but it's a big distraction, too. A Congress hostile to the Obama agenda will be seated this week, the government's entire 2012 budget proposal is due out within the next couple of months, and I'm wondering how President Obama is going to juggle the nation's business with his wife's pregnancy (if the rumors of Michelle Obama's pregnancy are true, and I'm not saying that they are).

    So if the rumors are true (and I'm not saying they are), Michelle Obama would give birth sometime in late July. A baby hasn't been born to a sitting president and his family since 1963, and tragically that baby born to John and Jackie Kennedy only lived two days. A baby in the White House just isn't something that happens every day.

    So what might a pregnant Michelle Obama mean for next year's defense budget? I'm betting a few more things might be snuck into the budget while the president is otherwise occupied. Maybe a new Ford-class aircraft carrier, or another Virginia-class fast attack submarine.

    It wouldn't be hard to figure out how such a vessel might be named, now would it?

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
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